Verushka Lieutenant-Duval: “I didn’t see it coming at all”

Verushka Lieutenant-Duval: “I didn’t see it coming at all”
Verushka Lieutenant-Duval: “I didn’t see it coming at all”

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OTTAWA – Almost two years after the events of n-word » at the University of Ottawa (U of O), Professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval says she felt, “flabbergasted, shocked and panicked”, adding that she never intended to ” upset the student in question”.

The latter testified Wednesday as part of the second of three sessions of the grievance filed by the Association of Part-Time Professors of the University of Ottawa (APTPUO).

Verushka Lieutenant-Duval was suspended by the administration, following a student complaint, for using the full term in a class on September 23. The professor mentioned how the black African-American community had reappropriated the term n***e to draw a parallel with the use by the gay community of the word “queer”, originally an insult. She had received, following this course, an email from a student telling her of her discomfort. She emphasizes that following the pronunciation of the word, during the course, no student told her of their discomfort. The lecturer later apologized by email to her class.

“When I read this email (from the student), I am surprised. I have a shock. I didn’t see it coming at all, ”says the 45-year-old professor.

She explains that during her university career, she heard this word several times from the mouths of white professors. Doing her doctorate at the time of the controversy, she says she got the word from a 2007 book by an American university professor. The Black Lives Matter movement, at its strongest in 2020, has changed the perception of things “that we said before, in 2007”, she says.

“I’m not on social media, I don’t have children. I am not too aware of what is happening among young people. I don’t have any friends who hang out with young people. I’m like in a closed environment, in my little bubble. »

The professor had indicated in an email with this student on September 23 that she had heard this word in the past in reference to the university world and not to the U of O specifically, but the student understood that it was was particularly about the establishment, she believes. This student also denounces, in an email to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, the racial injustice that takes place with other white professors at the University.

Today, the lecturer emphasizes that her intention was not to “upset anyone”. “I was using a word that is taken from scholarly literature. This is so not what I wanted as reactions (…). If I had known, I would not have used that word. »

The University of Ottawa. Archives ONFR+

Reminder of events

After warning her students in advance that she would do so at the start of the next class on September 30, the teacher with the students talks about the use of this word in the academic context to find out if it can be said.

“The purpose of the activity was to talk about it and they talked about it,” she says, adding that after this discussion she felt the debate was over.

The Ud’O has said in the past and on several occasions, notably the rector Jacques Frémont, that she had lost control of her class.

“Absolutely not,” she replies. “Nor is that how I feel about the tone of voice of the responses… There was no aggression. »

She adds, however, that she perceived a discomfort with her class when she read the course’s comments on Zoom at the break which affirmed among other things that this word should not be pronounced by a white person or even certain students who shared their discomfort.

On October 1, a student posted Ms. Lieutenant-Duval’s email response on Twitter, triggering an avalanche of reactions. She says she was very surprised by the reaction that was generated by the student who does not identify as black in an email sent to Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, but who says she speaks as a person of color. The post on Twitter garnered hundreds of shares and a screenshot with his home address and contact details is also circulating online.

“I was starting to think to myself, I am in danger here. »

An article from the student newspaper The Fulcrum claiming she used a “racial slur” is also published, further fueling the backlash. Meanwhile, via its social networks, the institution condemns the language used by Ms. Lieutenant-Duval. The latter points out that she then receives emails in the hours that follow, completely distorting the context of the remarks made in class. She then wrote to five people in her department at the Faculty of Arts.

” I did not know what to do. I was in panic. I just wanted to know what the procedure was, what should I do, who should I contact, ”she lists.

In the class of 47 students, only one complained to the Faculty of Arts and its dean, Kevin Kee. The latter sent an email on the evening of October 1 to the students of Verushka Lieutenant-Duval’s course condemning his “offensive and totally unacceptable language in our classrooms and on our campus”. The latter learned a few weeks later, via her union, of the dean’s initiative. No one from U of O got in touch with her, she said, saying she was stunned by the administration’s response.

“Even today, I can’t understand why they didn’t call me, write to me and tell me: ‘Madam, we heard. Do you confirm this?” Nobody contacted me to ask me: “What really happened? How did that happen ? What’s your version? Publicly, it is declared that I had an offensive language when it was a word, ”she denounces.

Withdrawal from the course

On October 2, she saw her course withdrawn, the University judging in this climate and this exceptional situation to have to suspend the professor in order to study the situation.

The institution says that two students from the course, including the one who shared the email, contacted the dean. The president of the students’ union also got in touch with Kevin Dee where he wrote that Ms. Lieutenant-Duval “tried to censor” the student in question.

The instructor says she asked her, in an email exchange, to add context to her tweet which claimed that the professor had used the “n-word” in class, without further details. The professor then asks in a subsequent email to withdraw her publication, because her personal information has been shared.

Nearly two years after the events, the professor says she has not made any publications citing a difficulty in concentrating, she who teaches today at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). Since the controversy, she maintains that her course load has shrunk from three to four classes a year to two to three.

The former U of O faculty member testified for a few hours Wednesday at an Ottawa hotel before the arbitration tribunal. Two grievances on his behalf were filed by the Association of Part-Time Professors of the University of Ottawa (APTPUO). The cross-examination by the University must take place on December 1st.


The article is in French

Tags: Verushka LieutenantDuval didnt coming

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